TORONTO — Mitch Marner scored twice in the third period as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the New York Rangers 5-3 on Saturday night.
Morgan Rielly, with and goal and an assist, Patrick Marleau and Andreas Johnsson also scored for Toronto (23-10-2), while Frederik Andersen made 25 saves. John Tavares and Johnsson each had two assists as the Leafs won their third straight game.
Neal Pionk and Kevin Hayes, with a goal and an assist each, and Chris Krieder replied for New York (15-13-5). Alexandar Georgiev made 31 saves.
Johnsson snapped a 1-1 tie at 1:37 of the third on a goal originally credited to Marner. After Toronto won an offensive zone faceoff to the left of Georgiev, the Rangers backup goalie stopped an initial tip by Tavares off Jake Gardiner’s point shot, but the rebound squirted out to Marner, whose shot deflected in off Johnsson standing at the top of the crease.
Rielly, who leads all NHL defencemen with 42 points this season, made it 3-1 at 5:26 when he took a pass in the slot from Johnsson and fired his 12th shortside on Georgiev. Johnsson was promoted to Toronto’s top line alongside Marner and Tavares in Thursday’s 6-1 spanking of the Florida Panthers with Zach Hyman out a minimum of three weeks with an ankle injury.
New York got back within on just 1:12 later when Filip Chytil made a nice move between his own legs to step around Rielly before Hayes shovelled his 10th past Andersen.
Marner put Toronto back up by two at 12:53 when he took a behind-the-back feed from Tavares and made a nice move to the forehand to beat Georgiev for his 11th.
Krieder got one back for New York on a tip at 16:19, but Marner iced it into an empty net with 19.2 seconds to go.
Down 1-0 after the first, the Rangers tied the game with exactly five minutes left in the second when Pionk took a feed from Jimmy Vesey and the right point and blasted a shot past Andersen’s blocker for his fifth.
The Leafs, who host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday prior to the NHL’s Christmas break, blew a chance to extend their lead earlier in the period on a four-minute power play when Rangers defenceman Adam McQuaid was whistled for holding and cross-checking on the same sequence.
Starting in place of No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Georgiev made a nice pad stop on Tyler Ennis, who would later leave the game with an ankle injury of his own, before Auston Matthews whipped another shot wide as a Toronto man advantage, that was a perfect 3 for 3 on Thursday to snap a 1-for-25 slump, failed to connect.
After the Rangers tied the score, Ryan Strome had a chance to give his team its first lead, but the winger completely flubbed his shot at a wide-open net with Andersen at his mercy late in the period.
New York had a couple of opportunities to grab an early lead, but Toronto went up 1-0 at 2:58 of the first when Marleau scored his 10th on a deflection.
Rielly intercepted Mats Zuccarello’s clearing attempt and fired a shot towards Georgiev that Marleau tipped home.
The 39-year-old Marleau is just the fourth player in NHL history to register at least 10 goals in 21 or more consecutive seasons.
Notes: Rielly’s career-high for points came last season when he recorded 52 in 76 games. … Leafs defenceman Martin Marincin, in the lineup for a second straight night for Igor Ozhiganov (illness), played his 100th game with Toronto. … The Rangers host the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. … Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was in attendance.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press